Lincecum deal merely sets bar for 2014

Lincecum deal merely sets bar for 2014
January 24, 2012, 8:24 pm

PROGRAMMING ALERT: Tune in to SportsNet Central: Hot Stove tonight at 6:30 p.m. for a complete breakdown of this developing story.

Tim Lincecum won his arbitration hearing without going to arbitration, which is of course nice work if you can get it.

In signing a two-year, 40.5 million deal with the Giants, he retains his free agency years, comes to within 1.25 million per year of getting what he asked for in arbitration (a little more than two starts worth), and all the fevered stories about him being sick and tired of pitching in San Francisco for a team that gives him no run support can die down.

For two years, anyway.

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Mostly, though, this was just bidness -- the Giants were not in a position of strength after the Cliff Lee contract set the new bar for top-of-the-game starters to 24 million per annum, and five years was nuts for the gambler in Lincecum and the accountant in Brian Sabean.

What this deal does, in truth, is set the bar for his next contract at 20.25M (even though he is making 18M this year and 22M next, with a 500K tip-money bonus), which is what the arbitration number was trying to do, and if Lincecum can stay both healthy and elite, it provides the logical springboard for the big cash-in in 2014.

Yes, this deal is a transition for Lincecums earning potential, though it is as close to the top end as can be imagined by our paltry math. Given that he has gone from 405K to 650K to 8M to 13M to 18M to 22M in his pre-free agency seasons, we can say that if the sky isnt the limit, it isnt far from his sights.

I mean, the man has increased his annual salary exactly 50 times its original, makes him 17th on the all-time yearly salary list, between Carl Crawford and Manny Ramirez, and the fifth-highest paid pitcher behind Lee, Roger Clemens (who holds the record at 28,000,022 in 2007), CC Sabathia and Johan Santana. Plus, he is entering what should be his prime years as a pitcher -- ages 27 and 28.

But all this money talk is moot if he has the bad year that most pitchers have by this point in their careers, or if his arm or some other extremity goes hinky. The performance is still what matters, and that is the message that should be taken from this. The Giants can rationalize that they are merely paying him Barry Zitos salary, but in fact they are codifying the teams pitching-first philosophy for the foreseeable future.

In short, nobody is worth that kind of jack until someone says so, and the Giants merely stated the obvious -- that they cannot conceive of good times ahead without him. Yes, that money could have poured into a hitter or four, but it can still only be spent once. The Giants have chosen to make their stand with T. Leroy, and if that isnt kicking the hell out of the tires, nothing is.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.